Ethiopia is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change. There are two main reasons for Ethiopia’s vulnerability. First, its geographical location and topography is highly prone to climate related disasters. Second, most of the population is highly dependent on crop farming (vulnerable to climate and weather variability). Approximately 90 percent of the population lives in the highlands (above 1,500m above sea level), while the lowlands are dominated by groups of mobile pastoralists (Ethiopia Synthesis Report, ACCRA, n.d).
The majority of Ethiopia’s population is mainly rural (83 percent) and depends on agricultural income. The dominant structure of the agricultural sector in the highlands is household-based, small-scale and subsistence-oriented. 95 percent of Ethiopia’s agricultural output and 95 percent of the total area under crops is from small-scale subsistence farming (about 8 million peasant households). Chronic food insecurity affects 10 percent of the population (Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Strategy, 2011). The country has a long history of being prone to extreme weather variability, often suffering floods and droughts. Rainfall is characterised by its high intensity and degree of variability in both when and where it falls. Since the early 1980s, Ethiopia has experienced seven major droughts – five of which have led to severe food insecurity – and several other local droughts (World Bank, 2010).
In addition to affecting the poor, disasters also threaten the country’s plans for development and economic growth. According to Oxfam (Ethiopia Synthesis Report, ACCRA, n.d), drought alone represented more than £1 billion per year costs to Ethiopia.
Unfortunately, climate change predictions show that temperatures will continue to rise, with a correspondingly likely increase in the areas affected by drought and desertification (Ethiopia Synthesis Report, ACCRA, n.d). According to our interviews, droughts frequency has increased in dry land areas, making it harder for communities to recover between droughts. In addition, there are also shifts in rainfall in highland areas (the short rainy season is shifting, in timing and intensity).
There are a number of positive trends towards the reduction of Ethiopia’s vulnerability to disasters and climate change. Emergency management, especially of drought, is widely perceived to have improved in recent years, aided by the development of early warning systems (EWS). The Prime Minister has also played a leading role in supporting the climate change agenda, with the support of development partners. The Government is committed to avoid another famine and avoid reliance on external humanitarian aid.
The Government is highly committed to development, putting a lot of effort into progressing well in achieving the MDGs. Recent strong economic growth and the government’s support to the transition and diversification of the economy away from agriculture could reduce the country’s vulnerability. A number of social protection and disaster risk management programmes are underway, including the largest safety net in Africa – the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). More recently, the Climate Resilient Green Economy (CRGE) has been developed, which is Ethiopia’s development vision to gain middle-income status by 2025 through climate resilient green growth, climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.
Despite these efforts, Ethiopia is ranked 11th of 233 countries in terms of vulnerability to physical climate impacts, and 9th in terms of overall vulnerability, defined as physical impacts adjusted for coping ability (CGD, 2011).
Past disaster events
- EM-DAT listing of disaster events in Ethiopia
- Disaster statistics from UN-ISDR and CRED
- Risk country profile from Index for Risk Management
- Damage and losses statistics from Disaster Information Management Systems
- Disaster response and management data from ReliefWeb
- HFA Progress Reports, government plans, and government statements and Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper – http://www.unisdr.org/partners/countries/eth
Red Cross + civil society
- IFRC appeals and info bulletins for Ethiopia
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